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The criminal laws relating to drug offences can be complex and the charges for these types of offences vary, as do the penalties. The charges and penalties depend on the type of drug, the amount of the particular drug and the use or intended use of the drug. There are also other charges that relate to drugs that do not involve the possession or supply of a particular drug.
The main categories of drug offences can be broadly noted as:
Possession and Related Drug Offences
Use/Administer and Related Drug Offences
Supply and Related Drug Offences
Import/Export and Related Drug Offences
Manufacture/Cultivate and Related Drug Offences
Miscellaneous Drug Offences
Firstly, however, it is important to note that when dealing with drug offenders, the law is not always about punishment, and the police and Courts have available to them diversionary measures, such as the below:
Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment. (MERIT) programm
Adult Drug Court
Youth Drug & Alcohol Court
Cannabis Cautioning Scheme
Young Offenders Drug Diversion Programmes
Other Drug Diversion or Rehabilitation Programmes
Below are summaries of some of the more common drug-related offences.
Possess prohibited drug
This is the most common drug charge before the Court and, as with any drug offence, proceedings are commenced in the Local Court and almost all matters are concluded in the Local Court.
For a charge of possession of a drug to be made out, the prosecution must prove that the person had knowledge of the existence of the drug and also exclusive, physical control over the drug.
Defences are available to a charge of possession, particularly where the police may find difficulty in proving the above elements beyond reasonable doubt. Technical defences may also be used, such as an illegal or improper search being carried out before charging the person.
The penalties for this offence can vary and in the Local Court, the maximum penalty if found guilty is a fine of $2,200 and/or a term of imprisonment for 5 years.
Depending on the circumstances, it is possible on a plea of “guilty” to obtain a section 10 dismissal for a drug possession charge. Contact us on (02) 9521 2222 and one of our experienced criminal lawyers can advise you of your prospects or feel free to view some of our results on pleas of guilty in drug possession matters.
Supply Prohibited Drug - Actual Supply
It is an offence to supply or to take part in the supply of a prohibited drug and this can take on various forms. The various forms of supply and interpretation thereof, make drug laws a slightly complex area of the law. Again, depending on the type of drug and amounts involved, the maximum penalties for these types of offences can vary.
It may appear to be obvious what an actual supply of a drug means, however, the various forms of drug supply can mean that someone can be found guilty of supplying a drug, even though they are not what one would normally consider a drug supplier (and of course, not a drug dealer).
For example, a supply can include someone pooling money together from friends, obtaining the drugs and then distributing them among his friends.
What may seem like an act of sharing a drug with a friend can quite easily end up as a supply charge; such as handing a friend a tablet or even (it has been successfully argued) sharing a joint.
It does not matter whether the person supplied the drug for a profit. This, of course, would be a factor to be considered in sentencing.
The penalties for more serious drug supply are severe. Even if the amount of drugs is not considerable, if it is accepted by the Court that a person is substantially involved in the supply of drugs, the starting point on penalty is always gaol.
This refers to having in possession the "traffickable quantity" of a drug that is deemed to be possessed for the purpose of supply.
This means that just because a person is in possession of a certain amount of a particular drug, they can be charged with supply, because the police believe that the drugs were possessed for the purpose of supplying to others. Again, it does not need to be proved or believed that the person was to earn a profit from supplying the drug.
Once charged with “deemed” supply, if it is accepted that the person was in possession of the drug but wishes to plead “not guilty” to supplying the drug, then the onus is on the defendant to prove (on the balance of probabilities) that the drug was possessed for the purpose of personal use.
It is possible under these circumstances to have a supply charged ‘reduced’ to possession before the matter gets to Court. Contact our office and one of our experienced criminal lawyers can advise you of your prospects or feel free to view an example of having a supply charge reduced on our results page.
As noted above, the basis of different categories of drug charges and penalties can largely depend on the type of drug and the quantity of the particular drug. Please refer to our table to gain an understanding of the different quantities of particular drugs that determine whether a person would likely be charged with possession, supply, commercial supply or large commercial supply, and of course, the penalties for these offences.
If you would like to read more on the ranges of penalties for different drug offences, click here.
Our criminal lawyers at Prime Lawyers have extensive experience in representing clients charged with various drug offences, from small possession, to large commercial supply and conspiracy to supply. Contact us now on (02) 9521 2222 and ask to speak to one of our criminal lawyers if you have been charged with a drug offence, or if you wish to obtain advice on behalf of someone who has been charged with a serious drug offence and may be in custody. You can also send your enquiry online now and we will call you shortly.